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Afghanistan Aid Bill Passed by House; Provisions Aimed at Women Included

On May 22, the House passed, 390-22, a bill (H.R. 3994) that would provide $1.1 billion over four years in foreign aid to Afghanistan. The bill contains several women-related provisions that were drawn from H.R. 3342, the Access for Afghan Women Act, sponsored by Reps. Connie Morella (R-MD) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

In expressing her support for the bill, Rep. Morella said, “In order to meet this goal of improving the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, emphasis must remain on meeting the educational, health and sustenance needs of women and children to better enable their full participation in Afghan society.”

H.R. 3994 would make several policy declarations with respect to Afghanistan, including one that the “United States and the international community should support efforts that advance the development of democratic civil authorities and institutions in Afghanistan and the establishment of a new broad-based, multi-ethnic, gender-sensitive, and fully representative government in Afghanistan.”

Under purposes of assistance, the bill states that there should be a “particular emphasis on meeting the educational, health, and sustenance needs of women and children to better enable their full participation in Afghan society.”

Additionally, the measure would set forth five principles of assistance. Once of those principles pertains to the role of women and states that “assistance should increase the participation of women at the national, regional, and local levels in Afghanistan.” H.R. 3994 would encourage the involvement of women in the decisionmaking process and would support programs to expand economic and educational opportunities, as well as health programs, for women and girls.

The legislation would provide humanitarian assistance for a number of services, including preventive health care and maternal and child health services. Aid also would be provided for repatriation and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons, counternarcotics efforts, reestablishment of food security and the agriculture sector, and reconstruction of the basic infrastructure.

Also included is a provision, based on legislation by Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA), that would provide additional resources for the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs to carry out its responsibilities.

During floor action, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) offered an amendment aimed at addressing the immediate security needs of Afghanistan. The amendment would require the President to report to Congress in 45 days on a strategy for meeting the immediate and long-term security needs of Afghanistan. The amendment was approved, 407-4.

Speaking in support of the Lantos amendment, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said, “In order to achieve participation in all aspects of life, women must feel safe when leaving their homes and their daughters must feel safe when they go to school, something they have been waiting for eight long years under the Taliban rule. And women must not be intimidated by troops and local warlords when they are finally on their way to gaining and getting their lives back.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) offered two amendments en bloc that were accepted by voice vote. The first amendment states that attention should be paid to providing health care and basic education to orphaned children in Afghanistan. The other amendment states that attention should be paid to providing basic education to all children in Afghanistan.

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